Getting to Know The Boxcar Lilies
The Boxcar Lilies hail from the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts—them there hills are Falcon Ridge country fer sure! Harmony is the key word when it comes to this trio—Jenny Goodspeed, Stephanie Marshall, and Katie Clarke. They will be taking part in the Falcon Ridge Emerging Artist showcase on August 2.
Falcon Ridge is celebrating its 25th anniversary the first weekend in August and the Emerging Artist showcase is always one of the highlights of the festival. The musicians are chosen by a three-member jury and are given the opportunity to perform two songs (not to exceed ten minutes).* The audience votes for their favorites and three or four acts are asked to return to the main stage the following year.
To learn more about The Boxcar Lilies, visit their website.
How did the three of you meet? Did you know from the get go that a trio was in the making?
We met through a local musician’s cooperative - Coop Concerts - in Franklin County, Massachusetts. Katie and Steph met first. Katie had a bluegrass band and Steph was performing as a duo with a fiddle/mandolin player and so each would occasionally drop in on the other gal’s gigs to sing background harmonies. A couple of years later, Jenny joined the cooperative and Steph and Katie heard her perform during the Coop Concerts annual winter concert. We were chatting and discovered all three of us had kind of been waiting most of our musical lives to sing in a group that focused on three-part harmony. So we started getting together informally and working out songs.
Where did the name Boxcar Lilies come from?
After a few months of singing in our living rooms and dropping in on each other’s gigs, we booked our first official gig as a trio. So we needed a name! We met at a local pub and decided that we were not going to leave until we had one. We brainstormed and came up with a list of words that we liked. “Lilies” was one of the words on the list and Steph said, “How about The Backroad Lilies? Oh wait, never mind, I’m thinking of Boxcar Willie.” and this giant light bulb went off and one of us said, “How about the Boxcar Lilies?” We then polled the patrons and wait staff in the pub and everyone agreed it was a great name and so it was decided.
You’ve got two CDs under your belts now, what do you think you learned in the recording process from one project to the next?
The process for recording each album was so different. When we recorded the first one,Heartwood, we really hadn’t been together that long. It was a leap of faith. We brought songs to the table that had, for the most part, been written before The Lilies existed.
We didn’t intend for it to be more than like a really good quality demo. But we met Dave Chalfant (from The Nields) who had a studio and had produced some fantastic records and it turned out he lived five minutes down the road from Katie’s house. So we spent the summer in his studio and with the help of his amazing ears and musical ability we made a CD that opened a lot of doors for us.
When it came time to record the second CD, Sugar Shack, Dave had “retired” from producing and he recommended Lorne Entress to us. A lot of the songs we brought to the table had been written with The Lilies in mind. Like, the song “Sugar Shack,” Jenny wrote and arranged to capitalize on The Lilies harmonies and the song “Good Fortune” was our first co-write.
There was a little more pressure to create a record that people liked as much as Heartwoodand we also wanted to stretch ourselves. That’s why we chose Lorne as the producer. He has a meticulous ear, but also a vision that was beyond the vision we had for ourselves. He pushed us and we learned to come into the studio with more confidence and the willingness to take a risk.
Your harmonies are what grabs everyone’s ears right away. How challenging (or easy) is it for all three of you to come up with the right sound for your songs?
It totally depends on the song. Sometimes Jenny will arrange specific harmonies — she has a background in vocal arranging and a cappella music. A lot of the time we’ll just take a song and start riffing and trying things out. Sometimes it goes very quickly. Other times it takes a few rehearsals for us to find the magic. We’re looking for unexpected moments, moments that give us goose-bumps or that create a sound where “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” And we don’t rest until we find them!
How do you choose which songs to cover? I recently heard you cover a not-often covered James Taylor song and was impressed by your group effort.
Thanks! We’re huge fans of great songwriting and are just as happy singing someone else’s song as we are one of our own. One of us will bring a potential cover song to the group. It’s usually a song that hasn’t been covered a lot and, most importantly, a song that we can deliver in a way that is really different than the original. We love to be surprised, musically speaking, and we hope to surprise and delight people with the covers we choose.
*The Falcon Ridge judging panel changes year to year. Many thanks to this year’s panel, Carter Smith, producer of Common Ground Community Concerts in Hastings-on-Hudson NY, Dennis O’Brien, talent buyer for the Newtown Theater in Newtown PA and Kathy Sands-Boehmer, booker for the Me & Thee Coffeehouse in Marblehead MA now in its 43rd year of presenting great acoustic music.